Middle East

Early this morning, when most of the protestors were asleep in their tents, riot police armed with rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas stormed Taksim Square in Istanbul. This attack is part of a co-ordinated string of measures being pursued by the Erdogan government in an attempt to crush the mass movement of Turkish people that has been developing over the past two weeks.

“Papa Tayyip”, as Erdogan’s supporters call him, returned in the early hours of Friday from his visit to the Maghreb. His hiding in Morocco had to end. His party, the AKP, had declared several times that it would not organize a welcome rally for its president, although up 10,000 supporters (according to some estimates) did gather on Thursday evening. “Chemical Tayyip”, as he is referred to by the tear gassed demonstrators, however, met not only his supporters, but also even bigger protests in the country than when he left, despite his claims that everything would end quickly, as the protestors were only “marginal elements” and “marauders”. Wrong he was indeed!

These are a series of accounts we have received from Izmir. While we do not necessarily share all of the conclusions, we think they reflect very well the mood of the movement.

The magnificent movement of the workers and youth of Turkey is an inspiration to the whole world. What began as a peaceful protest against the cutting down of trees in a park to pave the way for the construction of a shopping mall has turned into a tidal wave of mass protests against the vicious and reactionary Erdogan regime, which has acquired insurrectionary dimensions.

What started as a small scale protest against the destruction of Gezi Park that stands next to Taksim Square in Istanbul has now developed into a nationwide movement demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Erdogan, of the AK Party.

I am sure that the fund managers in the City of London or New York’s Manhattan or Frankfurt’s financial distrcit are very surprised. They may even be shocked. I am quite sure that many fund managers and bankers who have helped Erdogan's government stay in power for so many years by channelling their hot money to Istanbul’s stock market are now calling their brokers in İItanbul. 

Yesterday the Guardian Council in Iran announced the names of the eight candidates for the upcoming Presidential elections. The Council is a 12-member body of theologians and jurists, appointed by the Supreme Leader and the head of Judiciary, with responsibility for vetting presidential candidates ahead of the elections, scheduled for 14th June.

This year’s presidential race in Iran was dramatically shaken this week by the news that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had announced his candidacy. Although Rafsanjani has fallen out of favour with the regime in recent years, it is quite possible that his bid could be successful.

As the Syrian revolution remains locked in civil war for a third year, regional powers have begun to use the conflict as an opportunity to advance their own imperialist agendas. Syria has become a battleground for a proxy war between Iran, Israel, and the Arab states of the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the foremost allies of the USA in the Middle East, brutally exploits its migrant workers. The visa regime keeps the workers in a state of permanent dependency on their employers and abuses are common. At the other end of the spectrum members of the royal family, including the king himself, are among the richest people in the world with billions of dollars in wealth. This contradiction has revolutionary implications.

In the second part of this article we take a look at the contradictions of Egyptian capitalism, which are hindering it from solving the most basic tasks that it is posed with. Only a socialist revolution can solve the tasks of the revolution. But how do we connect the struggle for socialism with the day to day struggles of the masses?

More than two years have passed since the first steps of the Egyptian revolution. At first the movement was in a state of euphoria going from victory to victory sweeping away every obstacle on its path. The mood was intense and to a degree even festive. Millions of people, oppressed for decades, flocked to Tahrir Square imbued with the sense of their own power. They felt that all problems could be overcome with the same ease as they swept aside Mubarak. They felt unstoppable, and they were right to feel so. But experience is teaching them things are not so easy.

Although there had been some concessions to private capital under the old Assad, what was to rapidly accelerate the process and lead to a qualitative change was the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the Soviet Union in 1991. The system the Assad regime had modelled itself on collapsed like a house of cards. And just as the Soviet model attracted the young officers who carried out the coup in 1963, now its collapse shook their confidence in that same regime. [Part one][

The false idea that the Assad regime is somehow progressive, is rooted in the events of the 1960s, which were eventually to lead to the setting up of a centrally planned, state owned economy, very similar to that in the Soviet Union. However, a long drawn out process has changed the nature of the Syrian economy from what was fundamentally a planned economy to one where the private sector dominates and this has to be understood if one is to make a correct appraisal of the nature of the regime headed by Assad today. [Part two] [...

The Syrian revolution that broke out in March 2011 was part of the wider wave of revolution that spread across the whole of the Arab world. The International Marxist Tendency supported the revolution without reservations in spite of its shortcomings. Since then, however, due to the lack of a revolutionary leadership, what was a genuine expression of the masses, has now been hijacked by reactionary elements that have a very different agenda.  [Part two][Part three]

For the past year Iran has experienced a deepening crisis of capitalism, which in the last few months has spiralled into hyperinflation and devaluation of the currency. A recent trip to the country provided a perspective of the current situation within, particularly how people are dealing with the worsening conditions.

We received this request for international protests against the new labour Law being introduced in Iraq under the pressure of the IMF. It is clearly against the interests of workers in Iraq and openly defends the right of capitalists to brutally exploit the workers.

We received this report from Cairo, written last week just after the big November 27th demonstration. While it was being written, several thousands of demonstrators were still in Tahrir Square after the big demonstration of 27th. Hundreds of thousands had gathered in this square, the symbol of the Egyptian Revolution, shouting “Revolution”, “Oust the murshid government” (murshidis the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood).

Anger was simmering on Tahrir Square yesterday as hundreds of thousands poured in to the square to protest against Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Across the square large banners were inscribed with slogans such as “The Muslim Brotherhood has stolen the revolution” and “The Muslim Brotherhood are liars”. Throughout the day a seemingly never-ending stream of marches reached the square from all over the ancient city. In size and radicalism yesterday’s protest was equalled only by those that overthrew the hated dictator Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.

Two funeral processions turned into mass protests on the streets of Egypt today. Over the last 5 days thousands of people have taken to the streets in order to protest against a decree announced by the Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, allowing him to rule more or less autocratically. The events have publicly displayed the true nature of the Muslim Brotherhood who once claimed to be representatives of democracy in Egypt. At the same time these events show that none of the contradictions which led to the revolution have been solved and that under the surface a new wave of revolution is being prepared.

Today, October 3, 2012, thousands of people took to the streets in a spontaneous demonstration around the Bazaar of Tehran. The protests spread around the Bazaar, with people shouting slogans and wrecking a bank. The protest was against the massive price hikes of the recent period, the collapse of the Rial and the fact that the regime has chosen to completely deny the existence of these problems.

As fighting has spread into the two main Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo, generally speaking, the mass movement has greatly ebbed in the last few months giving way to a guerrilla-like armed struggle lead by the militias of the Free Syrian Army. So, where is Syria going and what is the revolution, or, quite arguably, what remains of the revolution, going to produce?

The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Mursi has won Egypt's presidential election with 51.73% of the vote. Ahmed Shafiq, the candidate of the military, got 48.27%, according to the election commission. However these figures should be treated with caution.

The Egyptian revolution has taken a new turn in the last few days. The ruling Military Council (SCAF) has launched a number of very serious attacks on the revolution. The military police can now arrest civilians at will and parliament has been dissolved. The generals have also announced additions to the Constitutional Declaration of March 2011 which give them virtually unlimited powers. What was supposed to have been the first democratic presidential elections in the history of the country has ended in a farce and a power struggle between two rival factions of the Egyptian bourgeoisie: The Muslim Brotherhood and the Armed Forces.

Writing from Cairo on Wednesday 06 June Robert Fisk, an honest and perceptive journalist published an article entitled: Revolutions don't always pan out quite as we wanted. As far as Egypt is concerned, the title is an understatement. He further asks: Is Hosni Mubarak's ghost going to be reinstalled, substituting a security state in place of democracy?

Comrades, thousands upon thousands of youth, workers, and genuine revolutionaries, not only in Egypt, but throughout the Arab world, have had their eyes on and pinned their hopes on the Revolutionary Socialists. We ask that you to renounce your position of supporting Morsi and take to the streets, factories, universities, and neighbourhoods in order to explain to workers and youths the counter-revolutionary nature of both Shafiq and Morsi, that you expose the rotten and reactionary nature of Egyptian capitalism. [in Arabic]

One of the main features of a revolutionary situation is the suddenness with which the mood of the masses can change. The workers learn quickly on the basis of events. And the events of the last 24 hours show that the workers and youth of Egypt are learning fast.

The second round in Egypt's fraudulent presidential elections will be taking place on June 16 and 17. In the election, Ahmad Shafiq, one of Mubarak's old ministers, will face Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Marxists can offer no support to either of these candidates, both of whom represent the forces of counter-revolution. However, the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt have decided to do just that, and it is a grave mistake.

The new edition of the Iranian Marxist journal, Mobareze Tabaghati, is now out, and the PDF can be downloaded here. Here we provide an English translation of the Editorial dealing with the economic crisis and its impact on the masses. Although the 2009 movement has receded, a new wave of struggle on a higher level is inevitably being prepared.

It is a year since the Syrian masses rose up against the Assad regime. Since March 2011, the Syrian people have faced the open brutality of the state in wave after wave of mass demonstrations, strikes and civil disobedience. These movements arose in response to the stifling dictatorship, and against the massive inequality, unemployment and poverty in Syrian society.

With tensions rapidly escalating over Iran’s nuclear program, and with the recent statements issued by Netanyahu in his recent encounter with Obama, the spectre of armed conflict is yet again haunting the Middle East. Having burnt their fingers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon seems to want to avoid an armed conflict and the Whitehouse prefers the use of “diplomacy”. The Israeli government, however, has threatened targeted strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites.

February 11 marks the one year anniversary of the fall of Mubarak. Summer, autumn, and winter have passed since the beginning of the “Arab spring”, and the Egyptian masses are still taking to the streets. Despite all that has happened over the past 12 months, nothing has fundamentally changed for the majority of ordinary Egyptians. There have been a series of victories and defeats for the workers and youth of Egypt, but now, with the anniversary of the Revolution, the movement is entering a new phase.

Over the past weeks tensions between Iran and the West have been moving towards a boiling point. The imposition of strict sanctions by the US and its allies is already being felt in Iran and threatens to cripple the economy. Alongside these sanctions, military excursions into the Gulf on both sides, Iran’s test firing of missiles, the assassination of Iranian scientists, the bringing down of an unmanned US drone by Iran, and a constant war of words is threatening to cause an armed clash between Israel and the United States on one side, and Iran on the other.

As we have reported earlier the situation in Syria is intesifying. In the last weeks the town of Zabadani has been under the control of the masses and all forces of the regime have left. Since then a democratically elected local revolutionary council has taken power in the town and is ruling it according to the will of the people. This is a very significant development.  Zabadani has become a focal point of attention for the struggling masses throughout Syria. It is therefore likely that other places will be inspired by it and follow its example. Here we publish the translation of the first declaration of the council:

The Syrian revolution has entered a higher stage in the last few weeks. The number and size of demonstrations have reach record numbers, towns are falling under the control of the defected soldiers- including areas surrounding the capital Damascus, and embryonic forms of popular power are appearing on the stage in the form of popular councils.

In the recent period revolutionary movements have grown and surfaced across the world. The events in the Arab world have shown how strong these movements are, indeed they have succeeded in toppling tyrannical regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Yet what all these movements have lacked is a genuine revolutionary leadership, and this serves as a barrier to genuine socialist revolution. In no country does this apply more so than in Iran.

After 9 months of struggle, a major face-off is being prepared and the revolution is throwing all its forces to a single point of attack. For a number of days last week, a campaign for an open ended general strike was waged on all the web pages of the revolution. A call was made also by the Syrian National Council, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution and other political forces for full participation in the strike. For the first time it looked that the organizers were taking the question of the general strike very seriously, drawing out a plan, and preparing leaflets for printing and distribution. The first date was chosen to be December 11.

Dramatic events have shaken the already stormy Syrian scene in the last month: strikes, demonstrations in downtown Damascus, attacks on intelligence headquarters, and condemnation by the Arab League. The Syrian regime looks weaker than ever and much exhausted, and a balance of forces favourable to the revolution seems to be the new reality. The arrival on the scene of a mass militia is an important shift in the situation which not only worries the regime, but also the bourgeois opposition and its imperialist allies.

On Friday more than a million Egyptian youth, workers and poor yet again assembled in Tahrir Square. The masses have once again risen in an attempt to remove the remnants of the Mubarak regime, which are still in power. Not far from Tahrir, in Abbassiya Square, not more than a couple of thousand people gathered in a pathetic demonstration in support of the SCAF. To the sceptics who did not believe in the revolution, this should be a clear demonstration of the real balance of forces. But at the same time the revolution clearly faces obstacles, not from external forces, but in its own internal contradictions.

Events in Egypt are developing at lightning speed. Similarly to the last days of Mubarak in February this year, we see daily battles on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere. The Egyptian masses are determined to see the revolution carried through to the end. The clash between revolution and counter-revolution is provoking a crisis inside all political forces, as the rank and file instinctively move towards revolution and the leaderships vacillate and try to hold the masses back.

As these lines are being written revolution and counter-revolution are facing each other on the streets of Egypt. Cairo's Tahrir Square has once again become the focal point of the revolution. Over the weekend, clashes broke out once again in Tahrir Square as the police tried to clear it of activists who were demanding the end of military rule. Driven by the whip of the counter-revolution tens of thousands of revolutionaries are retaking their positions in the square where the revolution had played out its first acts.

At the funeral of Crown Prince Sultan we had the spectacle not only of the Saudi monarchs but most of the rulers who had flown in to attend the ceremony. Fear of the mass revolt that has been raging in the region was palpable at the gathering.

After a spontaneous general strike broke out and lasted for a few days in the Southern Horan region (the city of Dar'aa and its surrounding towns and villages), a call was made by the various co-ordinating groups and committees, including the newly found National Council, for a one-day national general strike on Wednesday, October 26 urging all public and private sector employees, shopkeepers, farmers, artisans, and students to take part.

Faced with ever increasing contradictions, the military rulers in Egypt have looked to cut across the recent wave of class struggle by attempting to divide the workers and youth along religious lines. This is the context in which the recent deaths of 24 Coptic Christian Egyptian protestors must be seen.

In the seventh month of its life, the Syrian revolution has passed through many stages, experienced ebbs and flows, and reached new layers of the masses while others have passed into inactivity or suffered brutal oppression. However, the youth and the oppressed are determined to carry the torch of the revolution to the end, to "victory or martyrdom". The revolt has spread like wildfire, and all the efforts of a decaying regime to extinguish the fire have resulted in no more than a temporary relief. The masses have awakened from their slumber to come onto the stage of history, and a nation is being reborn baptised in blood and fire.

Since Sunday, September 25th more than 6000 casual workers at the Bandar Imam petro-chemical complex – Iran’s 14th largest company, based on reported sales – in the south eastern part of Iran have been on strike. In solidarity with them, workers from at least four other petrochemical plants in the “Petrochemical Special Economic Zone” (PETZONE), housing some of the largest petrochemical complexes of Iran, have been involved in the conflict.

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